The last CBWG online meeting took place on Thursday 24th September @ 3pm, at which Dawn Butler MP, Former Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities was the Special Guest speaker. The theme of the event was “Why and how Black Lives Matter is important to me”. Information on the meeting can be seen on Essentials here:
SOCIAL media has had reports of members and supporters of Britain First, a far right organisation founded by former BNP members, going to a hotel in Camden where homeless people are now being accommodated to keep them safe from coronavirus and try to set them on the road to permanent housing.
They turned up at the hotel with the mistaken belief that it was being used to house asylum seekers.
As a trade union Camden Unison has long campaigned against fascism and racism.
The recent Black Lives Matter movement has highlighted racism in society and we fully support that movement, campaigning for an end to institutional racism as well as challenging racist activities.
Organisations like Britain First try to capitalise on the scapegoating climate created by politicians like Boris Johnson and Donald Trump.
These politicians spend their time trying to persuade us to blame Black or Muslim people for the problems in society from unemployment to homelessness rather than blaming them, the real creators of austerity.
Had the hotel housed asylum seekers and refugees, our response would be that they are welcome here.
People do not flee their homes, putting their lives at risk in the hands of traffickers, live in unsanitary conditions in camps or try to cross seas on flimsy boats unless they are desperate and need a chance to start a new life.
Seeking asylum is not illegal. The rich are able to move their millions around the globe so that they can make even more money, often at the expense of those seeking asylum, and live in tax havens to avoid contributing to the National Health Service or our schools.
Yet asylum seekers and refugees when given the opportunity are often the people who keep those valued parts of society afloat – where would our NHS be today without the contribution of migrant workers?
At a time when fascist organisations are trying to grow on the back of both the pandemic and the prospect of one of the deepest recessions in our lifetime, it’s important that we say asylum seekers and refugees are welcome here. Britain First and their like are not.
LIZ WHEATLEY Branch Secretary PHOEBE WATKINS Branch Chair and the following Camden UNISON Branch Officers: KATHY ANIFOWOSE ISRA FEISAL PHIL LEWIS CLAIRE MARRIOTT CLAUDIO MUNZI ADEJARE OYEWOLE HUGO PIERRE VINOTHAN SANGARAPILLAI JACQUI WALLACE
The following is Camden Black Workers Group Statement on Black Lives Matter reproduced from the Camden Black Workers Group page of this website.
The last few months have been very difficult for Black staff and Black people all around the world including ourselves. At Camden Black Workers Group like yourselves, we have gone through the motions of anxiety and fear from being four times as likely to die from Covid-19, to disappointment in Government in not taking adequate steps to protect Black communities, to sheer horror and triggered memories and trauma as a result of George Floyd’s murder in the USA.
All these events are rooted in the simple fact of systemic racism and injustice which is not only prevalent in America, but also here in the UK and all over the world. Our exec members are not new to this fact hence why we were set up and continue to work with the Chief Executive Jenny Rowlands, and the Leader of the Council, Cllr Georgia Gould to represent the voices of Black staff in the organisation as well as working with UNISON on wider campaigns to change the system for the better. We stand with all the families around the world who have lost loved ones because of a racist system and we say Rest in Power to all the Black lives lost.
Recent events have been hard hitting not only physically in terms of the pressures of having to stay at home and / or work on the frontline, but also mentally with the psychological effects of trauma and this ‘new normal’ that we are all coming to terms with. Firstly we’d like to say Black Lives have ALWAYS Mattered, and our work is to continue to make this true for all. Secondly, we share your frustrations in being exhausted in having to re-educate counterparts at this time and forever being reminded of the racism and injustices we face as a race. We also understand that BAME is not a homogenous group and different ethnic groups face different pressures, and have a diverse range of needs. This is what we will continue to communicate to our leadership and ensure that HR recognises this.
Some of the ways in which we are working to make the organisation a place of inclusion where Black staff are treated fairly is through setting up a Resource Hub for all staff to tap into to learn more about systemic racism, the Black British experience, and how to be better allies and actively Anti-Racist. So please do send in your recommendations for this and anything you’ve come across that would be useful. We want to make sure that we are adequately representing the voice of our Black staff so we are holding an online General Meeting on Thursday 25th June at 3pm which will be a safe space for Black staff to tell their stories, express their thoughts, feelings and suggestions on how we can make real change in the organisation and ensure Black staff voices are heard. This will also be a chance for you to hear what we have done so far and have a say in what we communicate to the leadership going forward. You can join it via this link if you are on the Camden IT system: Join Microsoft Teams Meeting
We are committed to ensuring the organisation is progressive and Black staff are protected and supported in their work at Camden. We recognise that this is the time to really start changing things and for it not just to be a trending moment but a catalyst for long term and sustainable change so that our children can grow up in a BETTER future.
We encourage you to tap into well-being resources such as the Employee Assistance Programme and Black Minds Matter are also having free mental health sessions. We recognise the importance of staying informed but it is just as important to take care of you and take breaks from negative media and let your manager know if you need time off or someone to speak to.
Lastly, HAPPY WINDRUSH DAY, we know that Black people have made significant contributions here in the UK from BEFORE the Windrush Generation and to this present day. Without Black people there would be no workforce! Thank you for being patient with us and we look forward to working with you all to Champion the voices of our Black staff.
March 21 is UN Anti Racism Day and there are marches, rallies and events taking place around the world. In the last week, we have seen Johnson’s government introduce new immigration rules, and he himself has an appalling record on making racist statements. Camden UNISON is supporting this march and we will be going with the banner, so do come along and march with us. We will be assembling from 12 noon in Portland Place (outside the BBC building).
I attended UNISON Disabled Member’s Conference as a representative for Camden Unison, which took place at Brighton Conference Centre on Saturday 2nd-Sunday 3rd November 2019.
It was well-attended with over 250 delegates, the majority have some form of disability. The conference was led by Josie Bird, Unison President and Christina McAnea, Assistant General Secretary for Bargaining, Negotiating and Equalities. It was also pleasing to a good diversity of people as Chairs of each sessions.
During the conferences, there was some workshops, I attended an interesting workshop: Negotiating Reasonable Adjustment policies and Passport which was very popular and attended by large number of delegates.
We talked about deaf and hard of hearing employees and the challenges they faces with their employers eg: noises in work place, their rights to reasonable adjustment under Equality Act e.g: request for quieter room/ environment to meet their individual needs. This was fully supported by UNISON.
The conference reminded the delegates about the Equality Act 2010 which says that employers must provide reasonable adjustment to disabled job applicants/ workers and former employees who face a substantial disadvantage in comparison to someone who is not disabled. If employers do not provide reasonable adjustments where they have a duty to do so, then they may face Employment Tribunal claims.
Unison highlighted the importance for all delegates and employers to be aware of ‘Disability passports in the workplace’, which encourage the introduction and ensure continuous support of reasonable adjustment in a form of disability passport. Essentially, a disability passport provide a framework for discussion with a manager and disabled employee regarding the support required for that disabled employee.
The workshop also discussed ‘What is Social Model of Disability’ and delegates urge all employers not to use Medical Model when considering the employee’s needs. It is really crucial to encourage employers especially managers and HR to use the Social Model of Disability, looking at environmental/attitudinal barriers that ‘disable’ the employee that needs removing and adopt a ‘can do’ positive attitude as key message, rather than seeing the person’s disability as the problem.
One of the topic discussed during the conference was ‘Tackling the Disability Pay Gap’ which introduce a mandatory monitoring and reporting for the Employers, on the disability pay in the same way as Gender and BAME (currently being monitored).
Other areas discussed were:
•Awareness of Access to Work – calling Government to expand the Access to Work scheme to include young, black, deaf and disabled people in voluntary placements, where these offer opportunity for paid work and do not replace permanent staff. By extending the ATW scheme to voluntary placement (currently only on those on internships), this would enable more people to gain valuable work experiences and skills as a pathway to paid employment. Currently, lots of disabled people want to work but unable to access to voluntary placement opportunity without appropriate ATW support in place and many employers were reluctant to offer voluntary placement to disabled people without ATW, due to additional cost.
•Disability Confident Scheme campaign for all public sector employers to participate in the national accredited Disability Confident Scheme encouraging them to demonstrate a genuine commitment include employment, progression and management of disabled workers that would allow organisations to evidence they are closing the disability gap.
•PIP assessment support – to create guidance materials on the process for PIP assessments and the support channels that can be used during this process and work with the national office branch welfare officers to be trained on PIP assessments to provide support to members.
•Access to Mental Health Services for Deaf People – lobby the Department o Health and NHS to provided improved mental health services for Deaf people including increasing the provision of one to one counselling directly through BSL, without the need for an interpreter.
During Day 2 of the conference (Sunday 3rd November 2019), I stood on the platform during UNISON Conference with a great applause.
If you want more information about how Camden UNISON can support or represent members with disabilities and campaign for equality, contact Jare Oyewole or Asif Iqbal or email email@example.com
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